Despite our good intentions, too often we still view commandments as restrictions that hold us back. Nothing can be further from the truth.
Our earthly journey
What is it we in the Lord’s restored Church say the three big questions are in mortality? Aren’t they “Where did I come from? Why am I here? and Where am I going after this life?” Have you ever considered why such questions would be asked in the first place? Isn’t the purpose for these questions because humans feel lost, and they want to know if they really have a place in the universe? I am pretty confident that even those raised in the Lord’s church have, at times, asked themselves “What is the point of all this?”
We can all ask questions about our existence every day, but where are our answers going to come from? Has a think tank been created yet that has been able to come up with a viable answer to everyone’s questions about the purposes of life? The world’s view – their answer to these questions – is that we are a living aberration of the universe. We came into being completely by accident, and when we die the life that sustained us is snuffed out forever. That is a pretty encouraging outlook, isn’t it? Small wonder so many believe we should eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.
I find it interesting that even with that fatalistic teaching being taught everywhere in our schools and in our public discourses, as the assumed truth of our lives, most people still don’t believe it. It is natural for us to believe that there is more to us than just being a brute beast unleashed accidentally on the universe through a freak mistake of nature. If mankind can’t give us a purpose, a path to something more than we already are, who can? This is why we turn to God for answers.
Those who put their trust in God look to Him for answers the world cannot begin to address. As our creator, God should be able to tell us why He created us, why we were put here on earth, and what we are supposed to accomplish by being here. He should also be able to tell us if there is a next step for us after this life, and what it involves. In large measure, I think this is why humanity looks to deity for answers. This wisdom must come from outside the human experience. It must come from a higher power than we can comprehend, otherwise how can our deity’s answers be any better than those we can come up with ourselves?
God can give us all kinds of answers, but how does knowing we can become like God tell us how to make that happen? How does the knowledge of why we are on earth tell us how to accomplish what we are supposed to become while here during our short little lives? Knowing we are supposed to someday become like God doesn’t help us get to that point. That knowledge doesn’t change us into what we need to become to qualify us to live with Him again. This knowledge is not complete. If anything just knowing what we are supposed to become, and what our potential is, because of our eternal heritage, leaves us more frustrated than before we learned why we are on earth. This knowledge, without a path forward to attain to our highest personal aspirations, is just a tease, and a cruel one at that.
What commandments aren’t
Commandments are in direct conflict with what the world teaches. The world tells us that there is no higher power than mankind. We are the apex or the zenith of all creation, for we are the only self-aware creatures. We are free to do as we please, to act on whatever makes us feel good or good about ourselves. We answer to no one and nothing, except where the laws of our land may restrict us, and we can change those laws if we work hard enough. No one has the right to tell us what to do or how to behave. We hear these sentiments expressed as “living my own truth,” “yolo,” (you only live once), and “if it feels good, do it!”
Commandments tell us we must do certain things and be certain things. To the world this is restrictive and violates our abilities – nay, our rights! – to do what we want as the top of the food chain. So the world frowns on commandments, the directive to live a certain way or to have certain attitudes. This conflict is what causes the appearance that commandments restrict us, inhibit us unduly, and box us in, preventing us from acting in ways that please us. To the world, there is no upside to commandments.
What commandments are
It is only because we believe commandments come from God that they hold any weight in answering our questions about where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going after this life. Without commandments those answers are useless to us. Why?
A commandment is a direction, an explanation, guidepost, a requirement, and much more. Commandments explain to us some of the details about what we must do and become in order to achieve a sense of real purpose in this life, and to obtain a hope in a better life in the hereafter. If it is answers you want to how to become more godly, how to find happiness, peace, and be able to pass those things on to your posterity, it is commandments you must seek. The commandments show us the way. They are like lamps staked at intervals along the dark path of mortality lighting the way back home. The more commandments we receive, the better, for by keeping the commandments at the beginning of the path we see more clearly how to keep the commandments farther down the road.
Commandments are the spiritual illumination God promises to those who obey Him. Hence, in Doctrine and Covenants 59:3-4 he says:
3 Yea, blessed are they … who have obeyed my gospel; …
4 … they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time …
The teachings and the philosophy of the world recoils in horror at the thought of MORE commandments. To them it means more restrictions, less freedom, being “controlled,” and prevented from enjoying life to its fullest. But to those who place their belief and faith in God and His commandments, each new commandment is another clue to becoming more like God. Each new requirement of behavior or attitude is another light along the path that tells us exactly what it is we are trying to accomplish while we are here on earth.
Commandments tell us things we should be doing and attitudes we need to be developing to become more like God and Christ. They are given only to the faithful. The more faithful we are, the more the Lord promises to give us as a reward for our faith. This view on commandments is exactly the opposite of the world’s view on them. As faithful Latter-day Saints, we should be seeking for more direction, more enlightenment, more confirmation that we are on the right path. The commandments are the answer to our prayers for direction.
Each of us is probably asking the Lord in our personal prayers what we should do next. How can we get rid of those habits, attitudes, and general behaviors that hold us back spiritually? When we invite the Spirit to teach us and guide us, and we open the scriptures and study them, seeking for answers, this is when we fulfill President Dallin H. Oaks’ statement about being directed to know what is right in our life. This quote is found at the beginning of the Come, Follow Me lesson for week 22 of the 2021 manual, page 92.
The scriptures will help us resolve all of our personal questions because by reading them we invite and qualify ourselves for the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, which will guide us into all truth.
And what truth does the Holy Ghost guide us into? The commandments of God. Those commandments teach us how to live, act, and become to find the happiness and peace we all seek. What a joy and a blessing are the commandments of God. More commandments? “Commandments not a few?” Bring them on. We welcome such a blessing.
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